It should have an intro and a conclusion, I know. But, what should I write in the middle part, and in what order? Thanks.
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I have to agree with both previous posts. The most important element in revising any sample of writing is to substantiate your findings with evidence from the text. It is acceptable to have one's own views, but the substantiation from other sources is critical in all writing, even more vital in a revision. This has to be present in any and all compositions. In terms of order, I think conventional wisdom has your "strongest point" (the one that has the most iron clad case) as your last point before your conclusion. This will leave the reader with a sense of evidentiary momentum as they close out your paper. The point that might not be the most well supported, or the one that could be subject to the most amount of critique can be placed in between the the first and last point. Your first point should be solid in its analysis. Obviously, if you have more than three points, do some self reflection and assessment about what you have and then place accordingly. The conclusion should reemphasize, perhaps with a bit more lucid detail your thesis statement. Depending on your instructor, I have always felt that the best of conclusions raise further questions in an artful and elegant way. There is nothing quite like a student sample of work that actually compels the teacher to think critically about the points made and their implications. Sometimes, students simply "rehash" previously made points in their conclusions. This might not be the best approach in carving out a conclusion that challenges both writer and reader to intellectually envision something more. It's a tough thing to pull off, but little else compares to it, if done well.
Make sure that your essay answer has a clear and identifiable thesis statement, above all. Once you have that, any statement that you make about the novel, the characters, the themes, anything about it, are claims that need to be supported with evidence from the text. It's not enough to just say something; you need to offer examples from the book that show that what you say is valid. Each claim that you make must be supported with at least one example. Each example should contain specific details.
Another appropriate thing to include in an essay response is if the book or a character from the novel reminds you of something else you have read or viewed or observed. This type of statement gives you the opportunity to show similarities (compare) and distinguish differences (contrast). It also demonstrates that you can recognize broad themes.
The main thing to do is make a definitive statement in response to the exam question. This thesis should contain your analysis of the point asked in the question with 2 or 3 opinions based upon your reading/response. These opinions you will support with "evidence" from the text itself. That is, you will cite passages that "prove" your opinions true. (If possible, quote lines from the novel.) For instance, if a question is on the alienation theme, you could cite the lines from George when he discusses how "guys who ain't go nobody" go crazy:
...they are the loneliest guys in the world. They don't belong no place....
Also, you could support how Steinbeck presents alienation through the character of Crooks.
Just remember to precisely respond to the prompt/question and then to prove your response. Start with the most important point, the strongest proof. The more specific you can be, the better, since doing so proves that you (1) understand the themes, etc., and (2) that you have made a close reading of the text.
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